Writing is easy, but prototyping is hard

I did it! I spent four days without writing a word.

That’s not exactly good though. I’ve not only written nothing on the blogs, but I’ve also written nothing on my researches, on my e-mails and to my girlfriend. But I’m getting it all together, I guess. Today, I’ve sent all the e-mails that needed sending, finished a section on my aunt’s class material, and took my girlfriend to eat frozen yogurt with lots of litchi topping. I mean, lots.

I’m not that big fan of litchi. Actually, I do not like litchi at all. But she freaking loves it. I mean, we go to the counter, she asks for a medium size apple-flavored frozen yogurt with three toppings. TheĀ  lady on the counter asks, ‘your first topping?’. My girlfriend answers: ‘litchi’. After the lady puts the litchi, my girlfriend asks ‘can you put some of the broth?’ (non-native speaker strikes again! Is ‘broth’ the word for the water/oil stuff that canned fruits go in? Wikipedia didn’t saved me here). The lady puts the broth and asks: ‘your second topping?’. My girlfriend answers simply: ‘litchi’. The lady finds it funny and puts the litchi. My girlfriend then asks again ‘can you put some of the broth?’

At that point, the lady is not finding it so funny anymore. She anticipates the third topping. ‘Your third topping?’ – and my girlfriend always answers peanut candy.

My story today is somewhat similar to litchi-spammed frozen yogurt. I was finishing the core of the first section of my aunt’s classroom material. It was about solid geometry, naming the geometric forms and describing the elements that make them different – vertices, edges and faces. I’m trying the make a material with lots of supplements, so that the teacher won’t suffer when looking for references or ideas.

There is this board game. Concept. It is awesome. You should check it out. I first played it on a board game bar and loved it. Drunk college students act pretty much like children, so I thought the children would like it too.

Not only that, but I also think it makes for outstanding classroom activities, with some adaptation. It’s a guessing game using cards and a board full of icons. Pairs take turns trying to make each other guess a word from the cards by marking the icons. I think it really makes you give value to language.

Considering the first section about three-dimensional geometric forms and their elements is all about language, I suggested this as a candidate for motivational activity. The problem is: here in Brazil, this game is expensive as frozen yogurt. It goes on sale for R$139.90, something like $35 in U.S. dollars. It may not seem much there, overseas (or it does?), but this represents roughly 10% of the teacher’s monthly income. 100% of their income pays for *almost* all of their life costs, so what teacher would be able to buy 3-6 of these for their classes? And the public schools don’t have budget available for this either.

My eyes gleamed and I thought to myself: ‘supplement material’. I devised a similar game (if not a rough and ugly copy) of Concept that could be crafted with material worth $8.10. I’ve written instructions to it, and designed the icon board using free icons from the web. I’ve elaborated 40 cards with 3 words each, focusing on objects that could be described by it’s form to narrow the game’s possibilities to the ones useful for class. Then, I’ve tried prototyping it.

This story is about the prototype. It is a lot like litchi-spammed yogurt. At first, I thought it would be fun and interesting, but I became tiring and repetitive after time only to finish with frustration. The result was not bad, some people liked it – like my girlfriend and my aunt, for instance – but I didn’t liked at all.

First, I’m really bad with handcrafting and paper. My hands sweat a lot the whole time, so normally I have around a box of surgeon gloves for when I need them. Except that when I needed them, they were inside that box on my house 900km from where I were. So overall quality didn’t ended up that good. I’ve made a game board with greyboard only to discover that it doesn’t react well to folding in certain ways that needed folding. I’ve also struggled with vinyl paper, but let’s face it, who doesn’t? At least my mom (again!) and my dad (novelty!) gave me a hand, so I’ve finished it in around four hours. Here are some pictures of the experiment:

Now, at least it was fun to play. I haven’t played the prototype, but once the rules and the board are a blatant copy of Concept, I label it ‘fun’ by a isomorphism theorem.

Though I would like to see it crafted and used in the classroom, my guess is that they’ll go with other motivational activities suggested on my notes. I would like to discuss one of them later, based on something I saw Oliver Lovell implementing, but let’s leave it for another day.

For today, what does the Math Blogo-non-polytope-object thinks about the game Concept? Do you think it has it’s place on the classroom? Could it be effective in motivating children to learn the language of mathematics as a language to visually describe the world around them?

Also, gluing printing paper on card stock makes a huge mess.